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Proposal Could Reduce Homelessness Statewide

Shelter allowances for people on public assistance fall far short of the cost of housing. (sinzicraciun0/Pixabay)
Shelter allowances for people on public assistance fall far short of the cost of housing. (sinzicraciun0/Pixabay)
March 27, 2017

NEW YORK — Advocates for homeless New Yorkers say a proposal now in the state Legislature could drastically reduce and prevent homelessness across the state.

There now are about 60,000 people living in homeless shelters in New York, and the cost of keeping a family in a welfare hotel can be $3,500 a month or more. According to Marc Greenberg, executive director of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, the housing allowance currently given to people on public assistance simply isn't enough to cover the cost of a habitable apartment.

"This Home Stability Support would raise the level of the shelter allowance to around 85 percent of the prevailing rents in a particular area, and then the cities could make up the difference,” Greenberg said.

Home Stability Support is included in the Democrat-controlled state Assembly's budget plan, but may face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Greenberg said Home Stability Support would target people who receive public assistance and those in danger of becoming homeless, helping them stay in their homes.

"People could continue to work and their kids could continue to go to school and people would continue to have their support system,” he said, "as opposed to being pulled up from one place to another place where they don't know anyone, they can't really live a full life."

The plan approved by the Assembly would be phased in over five years with an initial state investment of $40 million.

The New York City Comptroller estimated the plan could reduce the city's shelter population by 80 percent for families with children and 60 percent for adult families over ten years.

Greenberg said he believes approval of the measure should go beyond politics.

"It makes sense, it saves money and it also saves lives,” he said. "There’s really no reason to vote against it except to use it as a bargaining chip for something else."

Last week, 95 faith leaders from 15 cities across the state signed a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to support the plan.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY